Mars Talks Up Culture to Sweeten Employer Brand

Mars Talks Up Culture to Sweeten Employer Brand

Although the candy company Mars owns some of the world’s most famous brands (who hasn’t heard of M&Ms?), its employer brand is much less well known, Quartz’s Oliver Staley observes. Staley takes a close look at the company’s ongoing efforts to become more attractive to talent as it plans to expand its workforce by 70,000 employees over the next decade. Like other big players in the confectionery industry, Mars has historically been very serious about guarding its trade secrets, but its notoriously secretive culture had the downside effect of limiting the number of people outside the organization who knew what it was like to work there.

The company now faces the challenge of attracting talent from a generation of young people who grew up enjoying Mars products, but may never have thought of it as a place to pursue a career:

To get its message out, Mars is doubling the staff dedicated to luring college students, deploying social media, and honing its sales pitch to woo potential candidates. That often means showering them with M&Ms, and handing out gift boxes stuffed with candy bars and snacks. In making its pitch to MBAs and recent college graduates, Mars also stresses the variety of opportunities it can offer new hires because of its many business lines, and recruiters talk a lot about the company’s corporate culture, which historically combines egalitarianism with eccentricity—sometimes with surprisingly forward-thinking results.

That culture has in some ways been ahead of its time—Staley notes that Mars was ahead of most American corporations in adopting ideas like open offices, flat management, and bonuses based on company performance. The company scores high on lists of great places to work and people who work there tend to stick around. Indeed, that’s one possible reason behind the company’s current recruiting challenge:

Mars’s growth was fueled by a stable and dependable work force, many of whom, attracted by the good wages, spent their entire careers with the company. But those long tenures meant Mars wasn’t refreshing its talent. As another generation reaches retirement age, Mars finds itself scrambling to replenish its staff.

Like many other organizations, one of the ways Mars is courting millennial talent is by signaling progressive values, both through benefit offerings like paternity leave and by taking public positions on sustainability and climate change. Mars CEO Grant Reid is one of the hundreds of CEOs to sign onto the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion launched in June. The company also touts its creation of manufacturing jobs in the US at a moment when the decline of the domestic manufacturing industry is a matter of major public concern and political debate.

What Mars is doing to update its talent strategy is a great example of something we’re seeing more and more of in our research at CEB (Now Gartner): the link between culture and the employee value proposition. While culture has probably always had an effect on employer brand and the EVP, we argue that the relationship has recently become more pronounced as organizational culture is becoming more transparent (for example, two-thirds of job seekers use platforms like Glassdoor to evaluate a prospective employer’s culture prior to accepting an offer). It sounds like Mars is taking a smart, proactive approach by leveraging the progressive aspects of their culture to appeal to younger job seekers.

CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can check out our latest research on the growing impact of organizational culture on EVP and performance here.